Distilling the Inspiration Behind Novato’s Alamere Spirits
On the south end of Point Reyes National Seashore’s Wildcat Beach, the waters from Alamere Creek cascade down a 40-foot-tall cliff, creating a tide fall — a waterfall that flows directly into an ocean — that’s dazzled the scores of visitors who’ve made the challenging trek to view it. But it wasn’t just the beauty of Alamere Falls that struck a chord with two local restaurateurs as they were getting ready to launch their new business.
“We have both always been drawn to the ocean and found the name Alamere Spirits to be the perfect fit for us,” says Susannah Souvestre on how she and her husband, Olivier, landed on a name for their small batch gin and vodka distillery in Novato. And the word alamere, an old French spelling that translates as “to the sea,” felt like a nice nod to Olivier’s French roots.
The Souvestres have lived in Mill Valley for about 15 years, and you may be familiar with the local restaurants they used to own, like Le Garage and L’Appart, and Zalta, which they currently run. But despite their success, a “shared but minor midlife crisis” led them to decide to branch out into this new venture.
“We are both in our 40s and felt if we didn’t open a new business during this stage of our lives, we would regret it,” Susannah says. “Olivier grew up distilling apple brandy in France with his grandfather and he always had that idea in the back of his mind throughout his career as a chef.”
While the pair officially started Alamere Spirits in 2019, the lengthy process to obtain necessary licenses as well as the time it took to receive equipment meant that they couldn’t begin distilling until early 2021. Yet in the short time they’ve been operating, they’ve already scooped up numerous awards. To name a few, they won Best in Class in the Flavored Vodka category and Double Gold for their Espelette Chili Vodka at the 2023 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition saw them win a Gold Medal for their French-Wheat Vodka (made with Champagne wheat) and a Gold Medal for their London Dry Gin, which has a velvety texture thanks to California almonds.
From the citrus zests and ginger added right before distillation to the espelette peppers grown in nearby Boonville, Alamere Spirits puts an emphasis on fresh ingredients. Susannah also credits her husband’s background as a chef for their success: “As with cooking, using high-quality ingredients in distilling is essential. If you cut corners in either, it will show.”
The Souvestres made sure not to cut corners when it came to equipment, either: “We use a custom handcrafted copper alembic-style still,” says Susannah. “It’s manufactured by a small company in France by a third-generation still maker.”
Alamere’s spirits can be found throughout the county at shops like Mill Valley Market and restaurants like Bungalow 44, and Susannah expressed gratitude for being able to operate small businesses in a county that loves buying local. And the Souvestres aren’t slowing down; they’re working on getting whiskey production up and running next. Given their repeated success, this is likely to be a delicious hit, too.